Young female doctor measuring waist of overweight woman with centimeter in clinic
There are multiple risk factors of obesity, ranging from age, genetics, lifestyle to certain health conditions and medications.

What Causes Obesity?

Western society is becoming unhealthier with every generation. Obesity has been steadily on the increase over the last few decades, and while it has slowed in recent years, we have yet to see the trend in obesity reverse.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a chronic disease caused by excess fat tissue defined by genetic and environmental factors. Excess calories are stored as fat and lead to an unhealthy weight.

Obesity puts people at risk for more than 30 chronic health conditions which include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and more. Due to the health risks, obesity is a leading contributor to illness, injury, disability and even death.

With the increased health risks, it is understandable that obesity also leads to both higher healthcare costs and utilization.

6 Causes of Obesity to Be Aware Of

There are many reasons that a person becomes — obese some are controllable and some are not. So, what causes obesity exactly? Here are six possible causes of obesity:

1. Genetics

Obesity tends to run in families, and there are a few reasons for this. Genetics may play a part in increasing an individual’s predisposition to gaining weight; if the parents are obese, the likelihood of their children becoming obese increases.

Genes may affect the amount of body fat that is stored and where fat is distributed throughout the body. Genetics may also affect your body’s efficiency at converting food to energy and how effectively your body burns off calories.

In less common cases, genes can cause disorders that result in obesity (for example, Prader-Willi syndrome).

2. The Influence of Family and Friends

As far as families go, eating habits and activity habits are shared, so unhealthy parents may raise unhealthy children. With that being said, not all who are predisposed to obesity become affected by it; genes can increase the likelihood, but outside factors may also be required for a person to put on excess weight.

The people you spend time with may influence your weight, and this applies to your friend group. If we surround ourselves with inactive people, we are likely to mirror their behavior.

3. Our Own Behavior

The principal causes of obesity are inactivity and unhealthy eating habits. Every day we make decisions that are good and bad for our health: our food choices, the amount of physical activity we get and the effort we put in to maintain our health are all things we need to consider. We’re consuming more calories, with less nutrition, at increased portion sizes for no benefit.

Modern society has given us television, video games and an infinite number of interesting things to see on the internet, which means we spend more time sitting than we should; we are not moving enough. Being smarter with our consumption and expending our energy properly has a massive impact.

4. Health Conditions and Medications

There are some instances where obesity truly is not able to be managed with diet and exercise alone. Some hormone problems may cause obesity (underactive thyroid, for example). Other disorders like Cushing syndrome and polycystic ovary syndrome, while rare, can also cause obesity.

Be sure to consult with your doctor to find out your options for weight control if you have been diagnosed with a disorder like this.

Debilitating conditions that impact mobility, like arthritis, can contribute to decreased activity and lead to weight gain. Additionally, medication may be the cause of weight gain. Types of medications that may cause weight gain include:

  • Corticosteroids.
  • Antidepressants.
  • Seizure medications.
  • Diabetes medications.
  • Beta-blockers.

This is not an exhaustive list, but always read the potential side effects of your medication and consult your doctor about switching if you are having issues

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5. Environment

Society functions on convenience, and it has made many of us rather inactive. The modern world can help or hinder our ability to stay at a healthy weight. We know what we should be eating and doing to stay healthy, but advertising effectively encourages us to buy unhealthy foods and sugary drinks.

This low-grade sustenance is also priced attractively; healthy and fresh foods are generally not as affordable as processed options, so sometimes we sacrifice eating right for staying on budget.

Since we are on the subject of affordability, not having access to affordable gyms makes it hard for people to be physically active. Even if we do make it to the gym, access to safe areas to exercise is not a guarantee (working out is hard enough without feeling like you are being watched).

6. Age

Obesity can develop at any age, but the older we get, the more our bodies change. Hormonal changes and our physical abilities change as we age and this increases the risk of obesity.

Muscle mass decreases and leads to a decrease in metabolism, so we are not converting calories the same way we used to. Bodily changes like this reduce caloric needs, so see your doctor and adjust course as far as consumption goes to make sure you are taking care of yourself the best you can.

How to Prevent Obesity

Weight loss based solely on lifestyle changes can be difficult to achieve and maintain. Here is a short list of things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Build your relationships around activities rather than food.
  • Change your eating habits and learn how to nourish your body.
  • Increase your physical activity and do it regularly.
  • Set realistic goals and commit to the changes.
  • See your doctor, and they can help make sure you’re losing weight the right way.
  • Avoid triggers that prompt over-eating.
  • Monitor your weight at regular intervals.
  • Be consistent (even on weekends and vacation).

Long-term success is possible by having a bit of discipline. Think about the long-term payoff rather than short-term satisfaction. Even if you are getting up and going for a walk around your neighborhood, you are still way ahead of the person sitting on their couch.